Why Set the Bar Low?


Why set the bar low?

There is a wonderful quote by Michelangelo that my hubby shares all the time:

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

I would say that this is a truism for our finances as well. When I meet with clients and present their financial plans, they are often shocked at the “aggressive” goals that I set for them, and I always respond that I would rather set your goals high and have you fail, then set goals that are too easy. I think most of us are scared of setting aggressive goals because we all have a fear of failure, myself included. However, wouldn’t it feel better to fail at a large goal than achieve a small one?

 Aggressive Goals = Aggressive Success

My hubby shares this quote all the time because he is a high school Physics teacher, and in the school where he teaches, the students take Physics in 9th grade instead of 11th grade, which is more common. He has taught all levels of students and teaches his 9th grade class similar to how he would teach it to 11th graders, and teachers and parents always wonder if he is giving too much to the students. When they ask this, he quotes Michelangelo, and you know what, his 9th graders get it as much as his 11th graders. If he set the bar low for them, they would miss out on a higher level learning experience.

I set high bars for my clients, and you know what, they surpass them, at least most of them do. Every few weeks, I run a quick check-in and analysis on all of my clients. With the system I utilize, I can see all of their spending, saving and investing activity. If they go to Starbucks or buy a pair of shoes online I can see it, I see it all. I do the check-ins to keep tabs on them, but also so that they know that I am watching so that if they are thinking about buying the shoes, they will remember that I am watching them and know that the shoes may become part of our next quarterly meeting.

Goal Achievement is All Around

Last week I sat down to do my reviews, and I will be honest, most of my clients are doing a great job reaching their goals, but there are some that struggle more than others. The struggling clients do not bother me, though, because I know that they are working on changing their habits and change is not an overnight event, it is an evolution. I have patience for them even if they don’t have it for themselves.

While performing my review, it struck me that almost all of my clients were meeting and exceeding the goals that I had given them. These are the same clients that looked at me like I had two heads when I told them what they needed to do a few months prior. With each client review, I just felt more and more proud of my clients. We set a high bar of success for them, and they are rising to the challenge.

Reach for the Stars!

You should never be afraid to set the bar high for your financial goals. In fact, the worse thing you could do is set the bar low and achieve those goals. You should set uncomfortable goals that you never imagined you could achieve, like saving $1,000 a month or putting $1,500 a month toward student loan debt or spending $400 a month on groceries. I don’t care what the goal is, in fact, the crazier the better. With focus and determination, I guarantee you that you will achieve those goals, and you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

And Don’t Be Afraid to Miss

Also remember to not be afraid to miss why I call a reach goal. I had a client meeting a few months ago, and he did not accomplish his reach goal; however, he achieved a lot of other goals, and the biggest one was changing his spending behaviors. The reach goal forced him to change his spending behaviors, and now that his spending behaviors have changed, attaining his reach goal is not such a difficult task. If we did not put the aggressive goal in place, he may not have worked so hard to change his spending habits.

So set your bars high and force yourself to achieve greater things! Don’t settle for mediocre goals that anyone could achieve. Why set the bar low, when you are capable of so much more? You will never fail as long as you are striving to make those goals a reality.

What was the last big goal you set for yourself? Did you accomplish it?


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Shannon is a financial planner who left a “traditional” financial services firm to start her own company, The Financial Gym, because she felt traditional financial services firms did not have the tools or resources to help people in their 20s and 30s who are starting out and trying to build assets while also managing debt. She realized that the key to long-term personal financial success is a commitment to financial fitness and making smart financial choices. Through her blog, Financially Blonde, her book, Train Your Way To Financial Fitness, her podcast, Martinis and Your Money and The Financial Gym, Shannon is committed to making financial fitness fun, easy and accessible for everyone.


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